Organizing Your Windows System

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I’ve Got To Get Organized… Tomorrow

Over the years, there have been numerous articles that provide information about installing and maintaining a Windows system, but it seems to me that they always overlook a very important issue. Most discuss pre-installation and installation tips (hardware compatibility, getting current drivers, backing up current files, etc.), and post-installation maintenance (frequent backups, making mirror copies of partitions, etc.). These suggestions are very good, of course, but the authors never seem to cover strategies for dealing with organizing the system to make reinstallation simple, should that be necessary. Anyone supporting end users realizes that reinstalls can be fairly common in a dynamic software and hardware environment.

By now, I would have thought that everyone using a computer would have come up with some organization scheme to allow easy hardware upgrades, system recovery and even operating system reinstallation. However, I continue to run into people who would be completely lost if told they had to reinstall their OS, or upgrade their hard drive. Even some tech support people seem to spend way more time dealing with data migration issues than should be necessary.

Whether one particularly likes the Windows operating system or not, the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of users have some flavor of it running on their systems, and support people almost certainly must deal with Windows on a regular basis. Frequent backups and the use of partition mirroring utilities, such as Norton Ghost, provide some security from the potential of system crashes and data corruption, however even these tools and procedures do not entirely eliminate the need to occasionally reinstall the OS from scratch.

A number of opportunities exist for the Windows registry and file system to become bloated or have errors introduced, including various software installs and upgrades, hardware upgrades, application and system crashes, hard drive failures, etc. Eventually and inevitably, the registry and/or file system becomes cluttered or corrupted in some way, potentially causing more frequent crashes and performance problems. There are utilities that will monitor and repair some of these problems, but they cost money and they don’t fix every registry or file system problem. It is almost a certainty that at some point one will need to reformat and reinstall the system, or retrieve a mirror copy of it, even if just replacing the hard disk. Unfortunately, while mirror copies are a fast way to recover, they will also most likely contain any registry or file system errors and clutter, or may be backleveled from the current system if frequent copies are not made.

By setting up the system in an organized manner, one can actually reinstall the operating system and all applications within a relatively short time. This method also encourages better storage management techniques, making it faster and easier to find infrequently used files and to identify what should be backed up. This method is certainly not revolutionary, but it is fairly simple and logical, and may even reduce the time and resources necessary for backups. I certainly would welcome any suggestions for a better method, or improvements on this one.

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